By Hope Belli Tinney, Washington SBDC
SEATTLE – KuKuRuZa Gourmet Popcorn was one of 11 small businesses from around the country featured recently at the America’s Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) annual legislative meetings in Washington, D.C.
Owner Grant Jones, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Washington State 2015 Young Entrepreneur of the Year, highlighted the success and diversity of small businesses that benefit from SBDC advising.
Hosted by Washington State University, the Washington SBDC is one of 63 state and regional SBDC networks that provide free one-on-one consulting to small businesses at nearly 1,000 locations across the country.
Jones first began meeting with advisor Rich Shockley in 2012 and now, 15 international stores later, they continue to meet.
“I had a two-hour meeting with Rich yesterday,” Jones said. They discussed a range of issues, including new franchise opportunities and managing growth.
“Without the SBDC, we simply would not be where we are today,” Jones said. “For entrepreneurs with energy but perhaps not a lot of experience, the SBDC is an incredible resource.”
“I appreciate Grant’s willingness to share his story with decision-makers in Congress,” said Duane Fladland, state director of the Washington SBDC. “Popcorn might be commonplace, but Grant saw an opportunity for an uncommon approach to selling gourmet popcorn around the world and he’s done that with the help of his SBDC advisor. Stories like his are what make our jobs at the SBDC so inspiring.”
Jones and his wife, Ashley, opened their first gourmet popcorn store under a different name in Bellevue Square in 2009 and then bought the KuKuRuZa store in downtown Seattle in 2011. They have expanded to four KuKuRuZa stores in north Puget Sound and 15 overseas in Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul, Cairo, Riyadh and Taipei where they sell more than a dozen flavors of small batch, handcrafted popcorn.
Other members of the Washington SBDC delegation on Capitol Hill included Shavenor Winters, policy coordinator with WSU’s Federal Relations Office, and Terry Chambers, interim associate state director. The group was also joined by Craig Murchison, a WSU graduate who lives in Virginia. He was an SBDC research intern for two years and helped compile information useful to Jones as he moved forward with international franchise agreements.